A scion of both '70's martial arts and blaxploitation movies, Jim Kelly, passed away Saturday, June 29. He was 67.

Kelly's most iconic role was opposite Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. He followed this up with a string of martial arts themed blaxploitation films, including Black Belt Jones.

While Kelly's film repetoire is relatively small, his cultural influence has been huge. You need only look at current, modern projects like Afro Samurai, The Boondocks (and their many kung fu-themed episodes), and (one of my favorite guilty pleasure films) Undercover Brother, wherein Eddie Griffin actually shadowboxes a Kelly on tv. Kelly's iconic afro, athleticism, and martial arts mastery have been often imitated but never duplicated. And any of you fools who haven't seen Black Dynamite or been watching it on [adult swim] have missing out. Simply put, without Kelly, none of this would have happened.  Well, ok, the scene with Bruce Lee fighting Kareem Abdul Jabbar in Game of Death would've happened. But I'm not sure about any of the rest.

Kelly also appeared in this recent Nike ad with Lebron James:




In later years, Kelly went on to play semi-professional tennis and continued to occasionally appear in films, usually in reference to his kung fu blaxploitation past.

Thanks for making everything a bit more awesome and a bit more funky for all of us, Jim.

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Tags: In Memoriam